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ON THE BLOGS | Blogs Comment on Appeals Court Ruling on Virginia Abortion Ban, German Abortion Law, Other Topics

ON THE BLOGS | Blogs Comment on Appeals Court Ruling on Virginia Abortion Ban, German Abortion Law, Other Topics
[June 26, 2009]

The following summarizes selected women's health-related blog entries.

~ "Another Abortion Case Developing," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog: The decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to uphold Virginia's 2003 law banning what abortion-rights opponents call "partial-birth" abortion -- known medically as intact dilation and extraction -- could send a new abortion-rights case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Denniston writes. He continues that if the case, Richmond Medical Center v. Herring, is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it could be a "sequel" to the court's 2007 ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld a federal ban on the procedure. Denniston notes that the 4th Circuit Court panel twice struck down the Virginia law. A "key factor" in those rulings was that the state law "differs in some significant respects from the federal ban," he writes. Denniston continues that the full appeals court in its opinion said that the Virginia law "is 'somewhat different' from the federal ban, but still 'provides sufficient clarity as to what conduct is prohibited to enable a doctor of reasonable intelligence to avoid criminal liability under it.'" According to Denniston, "The most significant difference between the Virginia ban and the federal ban is that, under the Virginia law, a doctor who intends to perform an abortion that does not violate the law, but the fetus accidentally is delivered intact to a significant degree, and if the mother's life is not at stake, the doctor has committed a crime" (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 6/24).

~ "More Restrictive Law on Late-Term Abortions Comes to Germany," Anna Wilkowska-Landowska, RH Reality Check: Pregnant German women seeking abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy "will face stringent consultations and will be required to undergo a waiting period of at least three days before a physician can make a final decision allowing the abortion" under a new German law, Wilkowska-Landowska writes. According to a 1995 German law, an abortion performed during the first three months of pregnancy is considered an unlawful act but not a punishable offense if a pregnant woman first visits a counseling center, though the woman is not required to give a reason for seeking the procedure. German law allows abortion after 20 weeks' gestation if there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. In May, the lower house of the German parliament enacted a law requiring women seeking the procedure after the first trimester to wait at least three days before a physician can make the decision to perform an abortion. Women also must undergo a psychological evaluation. In addition, parliamentarians voted to increase "consultations and support for families with handicapped children considering termination," Wilkowska-Landowska writes. She continues that the medical and psychological consultation requirements are aimed at reducing the number of abortions performed after the first trimester. According to Wilkowska-Landowska, church representatives and lawmakers began discussions on the issue in 2005,when it was reported that the number of abortions performed later in pregnancy were increasing (Wilkowska-Landowska, RH Reality Check, 6/25).

~ "Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee on Abortion," Jim Wallis, Sojourners' "God's Politics": Wallis writes that he was surprised to see that The Daily Show handled a discussion on abortion between host Jon Stewart and former Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with such "nuance and respect" for the topic. According to Wallis, although Stewart and Huckabee "didn't solve the issue, ... the depth of their dialogue and their respect for the other's core values and opinions was clear." Wallis writes they "never quite reached common ground, but their dialogue was a great example of the type of civil discourse our country needs to be engaged in." Wallis also includes video clips of the interview (Wallis, "God's Politics," Sojourners, 6/24).

~ "George Tiller: Health Care Provider," Eyal Press, The Nation's "The Notion": "Rare in the news coverage of the murder of Dr. George Tiller were the voices of physicians who referred patients to him," Press writes. He includes a copy of a letter written by a physician in response to Press' article in The Nation on Tiller's murder. According to Press, the letter provides "a rare exception" to the media coverage by discussing Tiller's role as a provider of an important medical service. The letter, written by Laurence Burd, discusses how he referred women carrying infants with fatal birth defects to Tiller. Burd wrote that Tiller "'cared for these women skillfully, and by so doing, ended their risk of further complications inherent in any ongoing pregnancy" (Press, "The Notion," The Nation, 6/24).

~ "CHIP and Contraception: Legislative Interference in Montana," Kathleen Reeves, RH Reality Check: Reeves reports that Planned Parenthood of Montana is suing the state over a law that prevents Montana's Children's Health Insurance Program from covering contraception and makes the state one of only four -- including North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas -- that ban such coverage through CHIP. Reeves writes that the law is "a serious lapse" because about 2,000 young women ages 15 and older are covered under CHIP, according to Planned Parenthood. According to the Great Falls Tribune, Republicans in the state Legislature support the policy because of their belief in abstinence before marriage. Reeves writes, "I'll refrain from saying how believable I find this claim to be. In any case, it's difficult to see the connection between a lawmaker's personal belief and state health policy." She concludes, "For the past 10 years, while this ban has been in effect, the State Legislature has been sending ... a message to young women who cannot afford private insurance: contraception is not realistic, or acceptable, for you" (Reeves, RH Reality Check, 6/23).